Dobri Dimitrov is almost 102 years old, and each day he travels several kilometers on foot and by bus to beg in front of the Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky in Sofia, Bulgaria.
He then donates all of the collected money to charity.
Residents call him the Saint of Bailovo or just Elder Dobri.
Altogether, Dimitrov has given around $80,000 Bulgarian Ley, or $45,000 USD, to pay the bills for poor children’s homes and toward the restoration of a variety of churches, monasteries, and religious monuments.
Dimitrov is particularly known for his kind and humble manner.
He is never angry with those who are indifferent toward his cause, and he is always willing to offer a gentle word to a child or tourist. Though he believes there is much selfishness in the world around him, he continues to wish the best for each and every person.
Admirers try to to bring him daily food, knowing he will not spend any money on himself.
He tells people that he does not remember too much about his childhood, or the years before his religious devotion, but some things are known.
Born in 1914 in the poor village of Bailovo, Dimitrov was raised by a widowed mother after his father was killed while fighting in WWI. In 1940, he married, and shortly afterward lost most of his hearing in one of the fierce WWII bombings of Sofia. He and his wife raised four children together before she passed away, and two of those children are still living.
As he grew older, Dimitrov became increasingly interested in the spiritual world.
He began to detach from his material goods, giving many things away to family or charity. In 2000, he donated all that was left of his belongings to the Orthodox Church.
After consideration and prayer, the bighearted man determined that his mission was to raise funds for the restoration of religious buildings across Bulgaria.
Like holy men of old, he does this by begging for donations.
Dimitrov now lives in a modest room in an extension of the Saints Cyril and Methodius parish church in Boilovo. The community no longer has a priest of its own, so he unlocks the building each morning and locks it again each night.
On those rare days he doesn’t beg, he can be seen carrying materials and otherwise helping out with the maintenance and upkeep of the site.
His devotion and his ascetic life together have earned him two warm nicknames: The Saint of Bailovo, and The Good Grandfather.
The kindly centenarian does not have to spend his days asking for handouts, but he knows that many people depend on him, so he gets up nearly every morning to make the long journey to the big city.
Wearing old clothes and worn shoes, he stands in front of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, asking passersby to contribute to his worthy causes.
There is always someone in a situation that’s worse than his, he says.
Dimitrov’s largest donations, in US dollars, include about $5,750 to the Saints Cyril and Methodius parish church in his native Bailovo, $14,390 for restoration of the Eleshnishki Monastery Mother Mary located to the east of Sofia (and the local church in the village) and another $20,550 for the Cathedral of Alexander Nevsky.
That is the largest donation in the entire history of the Cathedral, which began construction in 1882.
For now, Dimitrov has no plans to stop in his calling.
We wish him the best, and many more years to come.
Dobri Dimitrov’s personal motto: “You cannot lie, steal, commit adultery. You must love yourself as God loves us.”